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Name: Len W.
Status: other
Age: 40s
Location: N/A
Country: N/A
Date: 8/22/2004


Question:
I am reading "A Hole in Texas". My teenage kids and are likely to read it too and we will discuss.

As you probably know, "A Hole in Texas" is about the "discovery" of this Higgs Boson, in a fiction treatment. Is there any validity to the physics discussed in that book? Or about the idea that the superconducting supercollider might have detected the Higgs Boson? Has anyone in fact detected the Higgs Boson?


Replies:
No, it is not at all a silly question. In fact it examines an important step in the reduction of American science from the premier level in the world to second class.

There is validity to the physics discussed in the book. With the "standard model" now generally accepted as describing in detail the world of elementary particles, but requiring numerous numbers to be input arbitrarily before calculations can be done successfully, the question of how to extend the standard model is the forefront question and the Higgs Boson is the clearest direction indicated by what we now know to make further progress. High energies and high intensities are needed to discover the Higgs (named after the British scientist who first proposed it, Peter Higgs). The SSC (Super Conduction Supercollider) would almost certainly have been able to discover and study the Higgs and was the focus of the research of most elementary particle physicists (myself included) until the SSC was cancelled by congress in 1993 after around $3 billion had been spent. Almost another $2 billion was spent to terminate the project (including filling up the "hole in Texas"). The total cost to complete it would have been something like 6 or 7 billion. The spotlight of research in this field (including my interest) was then turned to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) then being proposed at the CERN lab outside Geneva, Switzerland. Though somewhat inferior to the SSC design, it is probably adequate to make the next giant step in this field. I and my colleagues at Rutgers are and have been members of one of the giant experimental teams there. The money going from America into these experiments would probably have been enough to complete the SSC and keep the US at the top of this field. Too bad!

The Higgs Boson, by the way, is expected to be the source of mass and hopefully will lead to explanations of why elementary particles (and thus all matter), such as electrons and protons, have the mass they do. Exciting physics!

Best, Dick Plano, Professor of Physics emeritus, Rutgers University



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